Intelligent Design

DARPA’s search for “physical intelligence”

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Solicitation Number:
Notice Type:
Special Notice
Added: May 05, 2009 11:23 am

Special Notice DARPA-SN-09-35: Physical intelligence (PI);
Proposers’ Day Workshop, DATES: June 9th and June 11th, 2009;

In anticipation of a potential program on the topic of Physical intelligence (PI), DARPA is hosting two Proposers’ Day Workshops that will provide critical information on the program vision, the milestones, and opportunities associated with the development of interdisciplinary teams to respond to an anticipated Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The Physical Intelligence program aspires to understand intelligence as a physical phenomenon and to make the first demonstration of the principle in electronic and chemical systems. A central tenet is that intelligence spontaneously evolves as a consequence of thermodynamics in open systems. The program plan is organized around three interrelated task areas: (1) creating a theory (a mathematical formalism) and validating it in natural and engineered systems; (2) building the first human-engineered systems that display physical intelligence in the form of abiotic, self-organizing electronic and chemical systems; and (3) developing analytical tools to support the design and understanding of physically intelligent systems. If successful, the program would launch a revolution of understanding across many fields of human endeavor, demonstrate the first intelligence engineered from first principles, create new classes of electronic, computational, and chemical systems, and create tools to engineer intelligent systems that match the problem/environment in which they will exist. Concepts relevant to the objectives of the Physical Intelligence program can be found in numerous disciplines and areas of research including statistical physics, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, dissipative systems, group theory, collective behavior, complexity theory, consciousness theory, non-linear dynamical systems, complex adaptive systems, systems analysis, multi-scale modeling, control systems, information theory, computation theory, topology, electronics, evolutionary computation, cellular automata, artificial life, origin of life, microbiology, evolutionary biology, evolutionary chemistry, neuropsychology, neurophysiology, brain modeling, organizational behavior, operations research and others.

To facilitate maximum participation DARPA will host two similar PI Proposers’ Day Workshops, one on each coast of the United States. The workshop goals are to: (a) introduce the research community (industry, academia, and Government) to the PI program vision and goals; (b) explain the mechanics of a DARPA program and the milestones and metrics of this particular effort; and (c) promote teaming arrangements among organizations having relevant expertise, facilities, and capabilities to execute an interdisciplinary research program responsive to the PI program goals. The workshops will include overview presentations by Government personnel and poster sessions to facilitate interaction and team building among the session participants. Potential participants should note that formation of teams with sufficient expertise to address all technical areas described in the forthcoming BAA will be critical to the success of the PI program. DARPA will not be funding partial efforts that address only a subset of the goals listed in the PI solicitation. Workshop participants are strongly encouraged to prepare posters describing areas of capabilities in order to facilitate discussions during the poster session. Additionally, a teaming website has been established to facilitate these interactions at

There is no fee for the PI Proposers’ Day Workshops. Registration for each workshop is limited (maximum 100 people; 2 persons per organization) by the venue capacity and early registration is strongly recommended. The Poster Session will be limited to 1 poster per organization with a cut-off of 40 posters total. The registration cutoff date is 4:00PM ET, May 29, 2009. Organizations wishing to register more than 2 participants, bring more that one poster, or attend both workshops should request to do so by e-mail to Dr. Hylton as early as possible (expect replies during the week of May 25, 2009).

Workshop details including registration, poster session, meeting location, and lodging are provided on the registration website.

East Coast Workshop
Time: June 9, 2009, 7:00am-5:00pm
Location: Hyatt Regency Reston
1800 Presidents Street
Reston, VA 20190
Registration website:
(Password = pieast).

West Coast Workshop
Time: June 11, 2009, 7:00am-5:00pm
Location: Hayes Mansion
200 Edenvale Avenue
San Jose, CA 95136
Registration website:
(Password = piwest).

For any questions related to these workshops please e-mail Please refer to the PI Proposers’ Day Workshop (DARPA-SN-09-35) in all correspondence. This announcement is not a request for proposals; any so sent will be returned. Nor does this announcement guarantee any funding should a Broad Agency Announcement be published related to these workshops.

Contracting Office Address:
3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22203-1714
Primary Point of Contact.:
Todd Hylton,
Darpa Program Manager

12 Replies to “DARPA’s search for “physical intelligence”

  1. 1
    Anton says:

    Seems like they expect that an awful lot of applied intelligence will be required to “engineer” something that can just as easily be produced “spontaneously…as a consequence of thermodynamics in open systems”.

  2. 2
    Marcos says:

    If intellingence was generated “spontaneously… as a consequence of thermodynamics in open systems” shouldn’t they just go around and try to find this spontaneously generated intelligence actually being generated in nature?

    Otherwise, even if they do succed (I doubt it), they will just prove that intelligence generates intelligence. Who would have think of it!?

  3. 3
    DATCG says:

    Interesting tech info from DARPA PITEAM FAQs.

    Q. May we propose more than one approach to the implementations of electronic and/or chemical systems?
    A. Yes, DARPA encourages multiple approaches if each approach is well-founded, has potential to satisfy all program objectives and metrics, and provides a risk mitigation path for the overall program.

    Q. May we propose using living components as part of the implementations?
    A. No

    Q. May we specifically engineer the environments within the implementations to accommodate the self-organization of the electronic/chemical system?
    A. Yes, but these environments must not trivialize the complexity of organization required of the system.

    Q. May we propose organizational forces other than thermodynamics to use in our implementations?
    A. No.


    I’m assuming PZ and Dawkins will form a team immediately and run away with all honors, glory and monetary awards. The WEASEL program is one component area that gives them a head start. To bad DARPA was unaware of this.

    The tax dollars saved could easily be used for spontaneous debt reduction, universal healthcare, global warming solutions, and free education for anyone who desires it. Each student being taught by a spontaneous teacher, each green car created by a spontaneous UA Worker, each patient treated by a spontaneous specialized health provider and each tax payor reimbursed by a spontaneous refund check writer.

    Please note that any spontaneous creation resembling President Obama is merely a coincidence and not a guided process. It would only serve to show that spontaneous evolutionary events can lead to the same solution. And that the only real messiah is the process of evolution annointed and foretold by the prophet Darwin.

  4. 4
    vpr says:

    All I can say is good luck.

  5. 5
    uoflcard says:

    Am I missing something here? From this article, their definition of “intelligence” is self-organizing particles:

    … building the first human-engineered systems that display physical intelligence in the form of abiotic, self-organizing electronic and chemical systems; …

    By this definition, ice is intelligent. Free-flowing water molecules, when brought under 32 deg. F at atmospheric pressure, self-organize, sometimes into beautiful patterns. Is it just me or is their definition of intelligence in this article completely vague? What am I missing?


    create tools to engineer intelligent systems that match the problem/environment in which they will exist

    Isn’t this already done? This just sounds like programming a computer. If you have to design a system for a specific problem/environment, how is that any different from any computer program? It is a logic-based processor, but it is not intelligent.

    So, how much of our tax dollars are going to fund this materialist think-tank?

  6. 6
    critiacrof says:

    the examples you give are self-ordering particles, not self-organizing particles. Order is a simple (predetermined) pattern, organisation is a complex(improbable) pattern with function like CSI or FSCI.

  7. 7
    critiacrof says:

    I have a question that’s bothering me. I think there is no such thing as self-organizing electronic and chemical systems possible in the proposed scenario:
    “A central tenet is that intelligence spontaneously evolves as a consequence of thermodynamics in open systems”

    Take your experiment and leave it in a closed thermodynamic system. When equilibrium is not reached the system will lose organisation and tends towards simple order(like crystals) or chaos(randomness). This is clearly not the desired result(self-ordering, not self-organisation).
    When you switch to a open thermodynamic system and for instance add some very specific energy sources, then would this show something that appears self-organizing then that is because of the very specifically designed conditions. Therefore it is not SELF-organizing. Could someone please confirm or disconfirm this? Because self-organization sounds kind of baloney to me.

  8. 8
    Mapou says:

    Physical intelligence? As opposed to non-physical intelligence? Does Darpa know something we don’t?

  9. 9
    Nakashima says:

    The workshops will conclude with a showing of Terminator 1-4, to help the audience visualize what DARPA is aiming for.

  10. 10
    Jack Golightly says:

    Surreal! The Twilight Zone.
    Surely someone has put this up as a hoax! Maybe our new president knows something we don’t. Must be looking for a way to get those 42 MPG’s.

  11. 11
    spark300c says:

    the problems for things to get more complex in thermodynamics you need mechanism or machine to use energy the way you want it. The one mechanism that in nature has is natural selection. Dr Sanford showed that natural selection can not prevent decay of the genome. the intelligence they will create will only be as good as the algorithm.

  12. 12
    Designed Jacob says:

    I can’t help them there, but I do have a perpetual motion machine I could get them that uses only thermodynamics.

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